Why Games Were Better Without Multiplayer
Not too long ago, most video games didn't have online multiplayer and the ones that did, the multiplayer mode was considered a secondary feature that was supposed to supplement the single player campaign. Now, the complete opposite is true in today's video game industry. Games are built specifically around their multiplayer and then the single player is tacked on as an afterthought. This has made games worse. Games are no longer about creativity and story-telling. It's all about money now.
Look at Call of Duty for example. Call of Duty 2 had one of the best (and hardest) campaigns of the franchise. It was also one of the longest. The game took anywhere from 9 to 12 hours on average to complete depending on your pace and skill level. Jump ahead to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – another great game with a highly memorable campaign. Gamers also got their money's worth out of Modern Warfare's campaign as it took between 7 and 15 hours to finish on average, again depending on your pace and all the extras. Even Black Ops had a respectable campaign that took 7 to 15 hours on average.
Then things started to go downhill as Activision focused more and more on multiplayer and less and less on single player. Modern Warfare 2's campaign time was cut down to a measly 6 to 8 hours. Black Ops II had a campaign that took just 7 to 9 hours and Modern Warfare 3 took 6 to 8 hours to beat on average. Another factor to keep in mind is that CoD veterans are able to blow through the campaign much faster than your everyday casual gamer so a campaign that takes most people 6 hours might take a CoD veteran a little over 4. So games that used to have a dozen or more solid hours of gameplay are now only lasting half as long as before.
What about the newest game, Call of Duty; Ghosts? The campaign in Ghosts is the shortest yet and takes between 4 to 7 hours on average to complete. So while Modern Warfare could take up to 15 hours, Ghosts can be completed in as little as 4 at a normal pace. How is this not a problem?
Call of Duty isn't the only franchise this has been happening to, either. The main story of Battlefield 4 only takes a little over 5 hours on average to complete. Compare that to Battlefield 1942 which had a 7 to 14 hour campaign. And as most people know, Battlefield 1942 was already all about the multiplayer to begin with!
Even franchises that aren't blockbusters known for their online play have been negatively affected by too much focus on multiplayer. The original The Darkness, for example, had a campaign that lasted gamers between 9 and 12 hours on average. It did have online multiplayer but it was more of an afterthought and you'd be lucky to even find a game because barely anybody ever played it. The Darkness II had a more fleshed out multiplayer and the campaign time was cut down to just 6 to 8 hours a decrease of over 30% from the first one.
Now let's compare these numbers with another shooter that doesn't even have online multiplayer - BioShock Infinite. The story of BioShock Infinite took between 12 and 25 hours to complete on average. Now that's a real game! Completionists could milk even more time out of it by getting every little thing. Plus let's not forget the BioShock Infinite campaign wasn't just long, it was amazing. The story, the characters, and the gameplay were all incredible. There's a reason this game won 42 notable Game of the Year awards. Guess it didn't need multiplayer to compete eh?
The recently released Wolfenstein: The New Order also doesn't have a multiplayer mode. Instead it relies solely on its extremely fun campaign which lasts a solid 11 to 16 hours on average. When you can get that much gameplay out of one playthrough of single player, you don't need an online mode to justify the purchase. You feel a greater sense of accomplish after beating a game when there isn't a monumental multiplayer mode still looming over you yet uncompleted.
Another good example is the Dead Space franchise. These games do have multiplayer but that isn't the main draw like it is with Call of Duty or Battlefield. The focus of Dead Space is the campaign – the story. The original Dead Space has an 11 to 13 hour campaign. Dead Space 2 clocks in at around 9 to 12 hours and Dead Space 3 is the longest of the series with a playtime of 12 to 17 hours of average playtime. Impressive!
Video games are getting shorter and that's a bad thing. The reason that games are getting shorter is directly related to the fact that developers are spending more time on the multiplayer aspect. When a developer decides to include multiplayer, they divide up the team working on the game. All other things equal, adding multiplayer obviously takes additional time, effort, and money to create compared to a game without it. To compensate, many times the single player campaign suffers. Instead of a game with a 10 hour campaign, now you get 6 hours. Sometimes less. That sucks though because it has resulted in campaigns becoming less memorable. Without that split game devs could concentrate more on creating a better game overall. Single player campaigns should be no less than 8 hours, bare minimum.
Although tons of people buy Call of Duty games strictly for the online multiplayer, a lot of gamers still buy games for the single player as well. This segment of gamers is getting forgotten because online multiplayer can be more easily monetized than single player. Think of all the map packs, customizable weapon skins, and other extra features like DLC weapons that developers can sell you for the online multiplayer. Multiplayer definitely played a huge role in the proliferation of downloadable content. The first DLC I ever remember having to pay to download were map packs on Halo 2. What can they do for a game with no multiplayer? Release an expansion? That's a lot more work for a lot less revenue. Considering small little trinkets like hats in Team Fortress 2 can be a multi-million dollar venture, why should developers even bother to create full fledged expansions like BioShock Infinite's Burial at Sea? Just release a goofy character skin like in League of Legends and watch the money roll in.
The gaming industry no longer rewards creating rich, full content. It seems like people no longer create games to see their idea become a reality (at least non-indie developers). They create them just to make money. The industry has become too business-like, focused solely on profits and what is going to sell. Developers don't seem to care about whether or not people even enjoy playing their game anymore as long as it sells. Just look at what's happened to the Call of Duty franchise. Everybody complains about it and yet it's never changed because people keep buying it year after year hoping the next game will be better only to see their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
Game critics have been brainwashed into thinking games need multiplayer as well. Wolfenstein: The New Order was a great game with really fun gameplay and yet many reviewers still knocked it for not having online multiplayer. Since when was 10-plus hours of solid gameplay not worth your forty bucks?
One has to wonder how many potentially awesome games we've missed out on because they weren't seen as profitable enough. One game that comes to mind is Lost Odyssey 2. Hardcore RPG fans absolutely loved Lost Odyssey and hoped that Mistwalker would create a sequel and potentially a new Final Fantasy-esque franchise. The original Lost Odyssey failed to sell over a million copies though, so it wasn't surprising to see no sequel and the series was never heard about again.
This problem seems like it's only going to get worse before it gets better with free-to-play type games such as League of Legends and other MOBAs now dominating the market. These games don't even have a single player mode whatsoever, it's ALL multiplayer now. Is this the future of gaming? A multiplayer-only model that allows developers to nickel-and-dime gamers at every turn? I remember a time when video games were about telling stories, not just gameplay. I remember when RPGs like Final Fantasy VII took 80 hours to complete, not the 20 to 30 hours of Mass Effect 3. Remember when you could buy a video game and you'd get the full game for your initial price tag? Now all the content of a game will sometimes cost you upwards of $120 with all the DLC.
DLC is bad for gaming because consumers are getting less game for more money. Some people think DLC means you're getting extra content but that isn't really true. Think of a video game like a pizza. You used to buy a game and get a full eight slice pizza for one price tag. Then developers figured out they could sell you a seven slice pizza and charge extra for that eighth slice. You're not getting additional content; you're paying more money for content you otherwise would have gotten included in the game. Day one DLC is probably the most obvious offender here. If the DLC is already created and done, why isn't it included in the game? If Final Fantasy VII were released in today's day and age, Yuffie Kisaragi, Vincent Valentine, and probably the Knights of the Round materia would all be paid DLC.
To really hammer this point home consider this: before you were able to spend $50 on Final Fantasy VII for potentially 80 to 100 hours of gameplay (most games cost $49.99 back then). Nowadays you have to spend $60 on Mass Effect 3 then another $50 on paid DLC for the full experience which is roughly 35 hours of total gameplay on average. That's $50 for 80 hours vs. $110 for 35 to 40 hours. Starting to see the problem?